Sunday, March 07, 2010

No Bend in the River

“When you reach the end of your rope”, goes an old saying, “tie a knot in it and hang on.” For last three and half years, people of Malegaon have clung to the last knot in their ropes but there seems to be no bend in the river upon which there are hanging on. There is no bend in the river. The torrential flow of stream runs in the same direction with the same old pace. Occasionally, tiny bubbles of hope are followed by hopelessness. Bubbles emerge to disappear into oblivion. Bubbles of hope are like a mirage in a barren desert which keeps deceiving the desert travellers.

September 8, 2006 Malegaon blasts are a watershed in the history of Indian Muslims. It was for the very first time that Muslims were specifically targeted on a mass scale: 31 deaths and 300 injured. We could nothing practical to prevent the arrests that followed. We screamed. The democratic scream was loud enough to be heard at 10 Janpath. There was a sense of relief in public when the investigation was transferred to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from ATS in December 2006. Frankly speaking, our sense of relief was based on a fallacy we failed to recognise. The ATS was allowed to file the chargesheet just a day before the case was transferred to CBI. The intent of State and Central government was hidden in this one single act. Congress-led State and Central governments connived to fool Indian Muslims but we failed to understand the judicial puzzle. There was no need for celebration but yet we celebrated transfer of the case. Politicians in Mumbai and Delhi must have laughed at this sheer madness. They must have felt happy that Indian Muslims had mortgaged their common sense in exchange of one single announcement.

There was only one Muslim, a former top cop, who warned against the mad movement for transfer of the case to CBI. His voice, like Maulana Azad, was subdued.

We should have taken a hard look at matters of judiciary but we were swayed by the so-called “victory.” There was no legal mind who could explain to us the judicial entrapment thrown by Central government with the active help of state government. By law, CBI could only file an investigative report in the form of a supplementary chargesheet because the matter was in a court of law. There was no single lawyer who could ask: Will CBI file a contrary chargesheet? Can a supplementary chargesheet be contrary to the original chargesheet? Is there any penal code which specifically states that a supplementary chargesheet fundamentally differs from the actual chargesheet?

CBI has finally done the expected: It has put the judicial stamp of approval on the investigation carried by the ATS. ATS took less than 120 days to file the chargesheet comprising of 3000 pages while CBI has taken at least 1200 days just to submit a supplementary chargesheet of merely 75 pages! Perhaps CBI should be renamed as CBS (Central Bureau of Sub-editing!) That brings to us to an interesting question: Which investigating agency is better as far as productivity and judicial delay are concerned? ATS was a far better agency than CBI. CBI sat quietly on the investigations for more than 3 years. Had the case not been transferred to CBI, the judiciary matter must have progressed.

The judicial battle started very late by Kul Jamati Tanzeem (KJT) is going to be a long one. It should be driven by mere judicial merit rather than any religious rhetoric. The focus of the judicial debate must focus on the innocence of all the accused rather than the blame-game on the investigating officers. Rajwardhan, the then Rural SP, may have been involved in pressurizing Abrar into wrongful confession but there is no actionable evidence against him. The same is true of the accusations made against Sadhvi and company.

Judgements are not based on individual conviction. It is based on the subject-matter and evidence laid down in a court of law. Therefore, unless KJT has actionable evidence against Rajwardhan and Sadhvi in 2006 blasts, it should keep quiet and focus on the innocence of the accused the ongoing judicial delay.

Hundreds of innocent Muslims have been framed by intelligence agencies in terror-related charges across the country. At least 20 Muslims have been acquitted in Hyderabad. This raises an important question: Cant intelligent agencies held accountable as suggested by Vice-President Hamid Ansari recently at an Intelligence seminar?

Justice and equality are our rights enshrined in Indian Constitution and we must strive hard to achieve them.

Sonia Gandhi’s Congress party has not done enough to give justice to Indian Muslims. An investigating agency like CBI may walk away without any accountability but political establishment has to bear the burden of wrongdoing.

The volcano of anger, of injustice is building up in Malegaon.

Can Sonia Gandhi step in to right the wrong?

Sunday Inquilab, March 7, 2010